"In The Three Orders, George Duby--one of the most influential French historians of his time--examines the origins of an 'imaginary' tripartite division of society in medieval France, a division that endured for a millennium. This construct is the image of a society in which men separate themselves into three hierarchical orders--those who pray, those who fight, and those who work. Duby explains why this schema, supported by the general movement of the economy and the political and cultural organization, became entrenched in the north of France during the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The book begins with a brief examination of a popular early seventh-century treatise on the 'three estates' of France. Duby then jumps abruptly back to the period in which the notion that French society was divided into three estates was born. It was the bishops of a tottering Capetian state who drew upon older imaginings of hierarchical order to project a new rationale for royal power and peasant subservience; their ternary scheme collapsed with the monarchy itself, to be resuscitated in the twelfth century, when the maturing of feudal-vassalic institutions and the conflict between Capetians and Plantagenets contributed to a definitive restoration of monarchical trifunctionality. In tracing the fortunes of the three orders, Duby shows how the tripartite schema came to occupy a central position in social thought and clarifies the manner in which feudal society viewed itself."